In 2014, when Gautam Ramachandran watched the trailer of Kannada film Ulidavaru Kandanthe (As Seen by the Rest), he was blown away. “I was one of the people outside Bangalore to share the trailer of the film,” the filmmaker said. “I simply loved it. I travelled to Bangalore, watched the film and even went to meet its director Rakshit Shetty.”
Ramachandran’s fascination with Shetty’s film, a Rashomon-esque tale about a murder in Udupi during Janmashtami celebrations, did not end there. He has made what he calls a tribute to Ulidavaru Kandanthe in Tamil. Richie stars Malayalam star Nivin Pauly and popular Bengaluru actor Shraddha Shrinath, and is scheduled to be released in October 30.
Richie marks the directorial debut of Ramachandran, a lawyer who was trained at Mindscreen Film Institute in Chennai. He has also assisted Mindscreen founder Rajiv Menon and Tamil filmmaker Mysskin.
What is Richie’s relationship to its original? Is it a remake?
Ulidavaru Kandanthe was an eye-opener in Kannada cinema. My film is definitely not a remake. It is merely a tribute, an adaptation of the film. I have made a lot of changes in my film – I won’t say to suit Tamil audiences though. I’ve only retained four or five scenes from the original. I’ve changed plot points, characters and reasoning in the hope that it all adds value and becomes, even slightly, a bigger and better film than the original.
When Rakshit made Ulidavaru Kandanthe, he was not the star that he is today. When I started this, Nivin had already turned into a pan-south Indian icon. So I couldn’t have made a film that will fetch me awards but not bring in the revenue.
Why did you cast Nivin Pauly?
I’ve known Nivin for a few years now, especially post Neram (2013). I wanted to collaborate with him. Back in 2013 itself, I had narrated a script which he had really liked. But we couldn’t find the Tamil producers who would let us shoot the film the way we wanted to.
After I watched Ulidavaru Kandanthe, I wanted Nivin to watch it. I told him it is not a linear film but it encompasses so many elements and is fresh. I got a good copy of the film from Rakshit and gave it to Nivin. One Saturday, he called me to tell me that he loved the film and said, can we do this?
We tried to buy the rights and went through a few producers. Sadly, even at that point, even though Nivin was big, we weren’t able to make the right headway. Then at one point, we were locked on one producer who was trying to squeeze the idea of a bilingual into the project. That’s when Premam (2014) happened. It changed everything – it was like, point your hand in whichever direction and pick a producer.
What is it like working with Nivin Pauly?
We started work on this film in July 2015. It took a lot of time to rewrite the script. I had shows for a few people, got feedback and cross-opinions and then assembled a team. How Nivin likes to work on a script is first we do a draft and I send it to him. He takes some time to read it and if the changes are few, then he makes a presentation himself – like a detailed four-page presentation and then sends it across.
If we are able to accommodate those changes in the next draft, then we carry on, or if the changes are too many, then I go to meet him. I’ve been with him on the sets of Action Hero Biju and Jacobinte Swargarajyam in Dubai for this script. He is very hands-on. Everything for him is approached with one question: how does this add value to the entire film?
How did Shraddha Srinath get on board?
A casting agency had sent me some of her pictures. This was before any of her films had released. I had liked a particular photo shoot. I asked the agency to arrange an audition. They wanted me to come to Bangalore. Back then, her Tamil was very weak but she didn’t give up. She gave repeated auditions. On the first day itself, we did some 20 rounds of dialogue. There was something very impressive about how she was putting in so much effort and how quick she was in coming back and delivering it all better.
Some of the bigger heroines by then had sent me feelers that they wanted to be a part of the project. I met a few of them, but somehow Shraddha’s look from the photo shoot and the vibe that she gave during the auditions never left my mind. We did a second round of auditions. This time, I gave her dialogue in advance. And that was that.
This is a rare occasion of a Tamil filmmaker remaking a Kannada film in recent times.
That’s because there’s been a lacunae in the [Kannada] industry in the last two decades. There are enough examples from the oldies and the goldies that got remade into many other languages. I’m glad people like Rakshit are working towards changing things. Nivin too has announce he will work with Rakshit soon. Revolution starts somewhere, right?